No matter how close two people are, they will have differences. What do we do when we differ? Sometimes we blame: “It’s your fault…” We might try bribery: “If you come home, I’ll let you go fishing.” Or we might choose to criticize, nag, or complain.
The common factor among those behaviors (known as the “deadly habits”) is that they are destructive to relationships. The more you use them, the bigger the wedge you drive between the two of you.
Choice Theory suggests a more effective way to resolve differences or prevent conflicts: negotiate.
For example, Mattie has realized that living alone no longer works well for her. She can envision a future where she shares her home with a person with whom she is completely comfortable, someone who would help tend the gardens and stay with her dog. Mattie has plenty of room, and she is not in great need of money. She’s prepared to offer a free room to the right companion.
It has occurred to Mattie that her friend Lydia might be that companion. Quiet and hard-working, Lydia recently suffered a setback and is now struggling financially.
In Mattie’s mind, this could be the perfect solution to both their troubles. She would get a compatible companion; Lydia could get back on her financial feet. The more Mattie imagines this future, the more she’s convinced that this is what she wants.
Mattie views herself as a generous person. However, she feels that people have taken advantage of her generosity in the past, and she has ended up resenting people she has “helped.” She is also uncomfortable discussing money and with making any sort of demands on others.
In adult relationships, it’s helpful if both parties have something to contribute. Mattie however, perceives this arrangement as, “I’m doing Lydia a favour and she will be very grateful.”
Perhaps because of this perception, Mattie doesn’t want to bother discussing mundane details. She hopes that because she and Lydia are reasonable people, the arrangement will work out fine.
Can you foresee any difficulties? What if Lydia leaves the lights on, running up Mattie’s electric bill? What if Lydia dislikes the dog, and kennels him when Mattie’s away?
If Mattie was uncomfortable about discussing money and responsibilities before, how do you think that conversation will go after Lydia has moved in and gotten comfortable?
The time for Mattie to negotiate with Lydia is before she tells her she is welcome to live with her. Both sides need a clear understanding of benefits and responsibilities. How?
In his book, “Out of the Crisis,” the great quality guru, Dr. W. Edwards Deming, quotes a basis for any negotiation: “This is what I can do for you. Here is what you might do for me.”
Even if she expects no money, Mattie does have expectations of Lydia that are critical to the success of the arrangement. Once she recognizes that, Mattie can begin an honest negotiation, and Mattie and Lydia will have a better chance of remaining friends for the long term.
Do you think negotiation is necessary here? If so, how would you suggest that Mattie begin?